Meyers chooses his words carefully

That Urban Meyer is quite the cagey cat.

Prior to a speaking engagement Monday at the United Way Champions Among Us banquet in Youngstown, the Ohio State University football coach deflected talk about making a run for the FBS national championship next season. His only concern is winning a 13th straight game when the Buckeyes host the Buffalo Bulls in the opener.

Kind of sounds like the plate is bare in Columbus, which we all know isn’t true. Two good recruiting classes, including a haul this year that challenged for the overall top spot, has added to a foundation that is among the strongest in the land.

Meyer might say he’s not thinking about a national title, but there isn’t a Buckeye fan alive who hasn’t allowed the thought to cross his or her mind. Why wouldn’t it with a turnaround artist extraordinaire running the show?

No one should have been surprised when Meyer led the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record last season, one year after a 6-7 record under interim coach Luke Fickell. Meyer waved the same magic wand over programs in his first seasons as coach at Bowling Green and Utah. Bowling Green had an 8-3 record in 2001, one year after going 2-9. Utah put together a 10-3 record in 2003, a year after a 5-6 showing.

Some of that same quick-fix potion worked in 2005 in Gainesville, where the Florida Gators rarely have a bad season. Meyer took the coaching reins that year and turned a team that went 7-5 in 2004 into a 9-3 contingent.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking national contender this season, assuming that Alabama coach Nick Saban lets someone else lift the crystal football next January.

There’s a noticeable difference between college coaches and NFL coaches in preseason rhetoric. College coaches rarely boast publicly of grand goals. They act like the playing field is level and that parity rules, which is far from reality.

No self-respecting NFL owner should ever hire a coach who doesn’t put the Super Bowl first and foremost in his thinking. Is a Browns coach expected to say, “We expect to go 1-5 in the division and miss the playoffs?” It very well might happen, but spare us the agony of contemplating it in August.

Former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer never understood why a coach wouldn’t list the Super Bowl as a reachable goal. He never made it (thanks, John Elway), but that didn’t change his approach each year.

Just once it would be nice to hear a college coach state the obvious and tell the world that his team is really, really good. Maybe Meyer can address the media at the Big Ten’s annual preseason gathering of coaches and predict a Big Ten championship.

Instead, every coach will talk about how good the other teams are and point out all the obstacles they face as boxes of Kleenex are handed out to media members.

Las Vegas oddsmakers aren’t listening to any of the sob stories. They know which teams are likely to rule college football, and as of now they have Alabama as a 5-to-2 favorite to win the national championship, with Ohio State next at 6-to-1. Neither team is an underdog in any of its games. Alabama is an 11.5-point favorite over LSU, and Ohio State is favored by six points over Michigan.

Don’t buy into the thinking that Ohio State is concerned about its opener against the Buffalo Bulls. I’m not sure the Buffalo Bills would have any easy go of it against the Buckeyes.